Orthodoxy in the Contemporary World. A Voice of Conscience in the Greek Archdiocese. (1968)


21 stycznia 1968 roku ojciec Nikita Palassis (1913-2017) pożegnał się z konstantynopolitańskim patriarchą-ekumenistą. Jego pożegnalny tekst został opublikowany w dwumiesięczniku ojca Serafina (Rose) The Orthodox Word. Z tego tekstu chciałbym zacytować kluczowe słowa ojca Nikity: “Być częścią cerkwi która staje się rzymsko-katolicka w swym zarządzaniu, protestancka w swej wierze i grecko-prawosławna w swych obrzędach – to nie dla mnie. Choć obecnie Prawosławie wszędzie otrzymuję uznanie jako „czwarta główna religia”, to jednocześnie traci swój prawosławny charakter.” “Being part of a church which is becoming Roman Catholic in its  administration, Protestant in its faith and Greek Orthodox in its ritual is not for me. While Orthodoxy is being rapidly recognized as a “fourth major faith” it is simultaneously losing its Orthodox character.” The text of his sermon is reproduced as it appeared in “The Orthodox Word,” 1968 Vol. 4, No. 1 (18), pp. 37-40. The title, introduction, and concluding paragraph are from the editors of that journal. +++

ORTHODOXY IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD

A VOICE OF CONSCIENCE IN THE GREEK ARCHDIOCESE

To the voices of protest from within the Church of Greece and the Russian Church Abroad over the increasingly flagrant apostasy of Patriarch Athenagoras and Archbishop Iakovos is now added a voice from a representative of the best element within the Greek Archdiocese itself. Fr. Neketas Palassis, well known as a conscientious and popular priest in the Greek parish of Seattle, where he has served for eight and one-half years, has worked against obstacles from above in his attempt to preach genuine Orthodoxy within the bounds of the Greek Archdiocese. Having found this to be no longer possible, he sets forth the issues well in his farewell sermon to his flock, the major part of which is here reproduced.

FAREWELL SERMON OF REV. NEKETAS S PALASSIS, PRESBYTER OF ST. DEMETRIOS GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH, SEATTLE

JANUARY 21, 1968 ….The time has come and is here when certain statements must be made without hiding and without compromise; statements which must be understood as expressing love of Christ and His Holy Church and of the Truth which He represents and is. We are witnessing in our times that of which our Lord spoke in the 24th chapter of St. Matthew. He says that in those days God’s obvious enemies will be those who appear as friends of God, as Christians without being so in truth. It is from them that Christ wishes to preserve the faithful, because His enemies will be able to deceive many by their manner. The very Orthodox Christian faith in these later days is being attacked by those who should be its defenders and spokesmen. For these people Orthodoxy is irrelevant and anachronistic; it is one of many religions with little spiritual value or depth for them. They enjoy its external trappings of vestments, music, architecture and art and find themselves untransformed by its message. The Orthodox Christian faith is to me of incomparable value. It is not an item to be bartered, debated, and finally compromised on the ecumenical altar of humanistic and anthropocentric love which excludes truth and real divine love. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in His love for us gave us the Church as “the pillar and foundation of truth” (I Timothy 3:15) “with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless” (Ephesians 5: 27). I cannot conceive how it can be offered on the altar of ecumenical dialogue to be dissected and autopsied for the sake of some abstract “love.” On July 25 I received a letter from Archbishop Iakovos (prompted by letters from Seattle) asking me to “repent” concerning statements I had made in regard to the theological views of the Patriarch [Athenagoras] and the Archbishop. Their statements which have been made on various occasions indicate that they feel Orthodoxy is not “the pillar and foundation of truth,” but one of many confused denominations seeking truth. They maintain that only when all the various confessions are united into some sort of ecumenical hodgepodge will we have the complete truth. Then, somehow, all of mankind’s problems will be on the road to solution. As for the teaching of the saints and fathers of the previous centuries, they are found to be without “love” and “understanding” because they insisted on truth within the Church. The Orthodox concept that in order for one to be a theologian one must love God, pray, fast, meditate, participate in the sacraments and attempt to transform oneself inwardly and thus effect an outward transformation, is evidently unknown to our leaders. They advise us to change our theology and then all our problems will be resolved. Their motto is “a changing theology for a changing world.” I do not find these viewpoints of the Patriarch and Archbishop as being representative of what our Church teaches and believes. Therefore, I did not offer my “repentance, correction and placement within the framework of serious and responsible Greek Orthodox ministry” as asked by the Archbishop. I had not and have not said anything contrary to Orthodox teachings. Our leaders attack the theologians as being guilty of preventing the much-desired union of the churches. But if the theologians who study God and who have spent their lives in prayer, fasting, and spiritual edification offer their objections to union without dogmatic agreement, then how can our leaders say that a union can be accomplished without dogmatic and doctrinal agreement? A united church, the type our leaders advocate, in which each one will maintain his own separate and conflicting dogmas, cannot be the “pillar and foundation of truth” of which St. Paul speaks. Yet clergy and laity alike, through devious means are skillfully, tactfully and resolutely being drawn into such a position of false compromise. Only a few months ago, a Greek Orthodox bishop in Boston declared that the dogmas of papal infallibility and the immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary were not serious obstacles to Orthodox-Roman Catholic union. All these years Orthodox have condemned these doctrines and now we hear from an Orthodox Bishop that they do not constitute serious obstacles to union with Rome. Obviously, something is wrong here. I was reminded in October by Bishop Demetrios of the meeting dates of the spiritual court because by not offering my “repentance” the Archdiocese felt that I had left myself open to spiritual court. It seemed totally and absolutely ridiculous and incredible to me that any Orthodox priest could be called to a spiritual court of the Orthodox Church because he spoke out on behalf of the Orthodox Faith. I wonder how the saints and confessors who died for the preservation of the Orthodox Christian Doctrine would have viewed this situation. Especially St. Athanasius of Alexandria whose memory was celebrated on Thursday, and who was exiled five times because of his Orthodox beliefs, and St. Mark of Ephesus who was celebrated on Friday and who was the only Orthodox who refused to sign the false union with the Roman Church in 1439. If our Orthodox Faith is important to us, then we must speak out over the corrections and distortions of it which are being made. Our Archdiocese has become an autocratic, self-centered institution which is consolidating its authority much like Rome. All privileges and rights of Orthodox Christians are slowly but surely being taken away and the Archbishop abuses his canonical rights. Our leaders are not concerned with truth but only with image and glorification. We are told that nothing divides Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants and that the union of the churches must occur. In order to silence objectors to the ecumenical policies of the Patriarch and Archbishop we are told that the Patriarch represents all of Orthodoxy and the Archbishop is his representative in this country. Therefore, other Orthodox who speak out are silenced because they do not represent the “official political line” of the Patriarchate. The blending of various groups is beginning and soon the Orthodox will fall completely into the ecumenical funnel and will come out as a bland faith incapable of expressing truth and willing to mix with anything to give it vitality and quality which it will lose in this ecumenical blend. Orthodox are slowly being drawn into an ecumenical super-church which will somehow have the Pope as its head, yet Orthodox will retain their Patriarch, languages, customs, etc., so that they will not realize they’ve been absorbed. Being part of a church which is becoming Roman Catholic in its administration, Protestant in its faith and Greek Orthodox in its ritual is not for me. While Orthodoxy is being rapidly recognized as a “fourth major faith” it is simultaneously losing its Orthodox character. We are keeping the external trappings and giving away our internal spiritual wealth and truth. At this point, I must deplore most strenuously the dual standards and procedures of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese which have created extremely difficult and illogical situations within our church. For example, in our parish we have Orthodox Christians of a jurisdiction which according to our Archdiocese is uncanonical, and they are deprived of all rights, privileges, and services of the church. Yet, at the same time, we see Archbishop Iakovos performing a Memorial Service for Cardinal Spellman… While prohibiting canonical and uncanonical Orthodox to pray together, the Archdiocese encourages joint prayer services with non-Orthodox…. Our Lord has shown me the way I am to take for myself and my family. It is a difficult one, yet one which under the circumstances leaves me no choice… I feel that I must enter an Orthodox jurisdiction which has endeavored to remain Orthodox within the confusion and contradictions of our times. This group, with which I have had personal contacts, does not consist of many hundreds of thousands as does our own Archdiocese; nor does it boast of impressive structures and unique money-raising ideas; it is a group whose numbers are few and yet one can sense the spiritual joy and happiness of the bishops and clergy of this group. Our Lord has said, “where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am also.” And as a priest, I was not and am not concerned with the financial remuneration a parish can offer, nor with the number of mem¬bers. For whether there are 5 or 5,000, they are children of God. Therefore, I have petitioned to be received under the jurisdiction of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Their parish here is St. Nicholas Cathedral… I will serve there until our own Orthodox missionary parish is established with the Grace of God…. Fr. Neketas’ petition has been accepted by the Synod of Bishops [of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad], and on Sunday, Feb. 11 (Jan. 19, OS) in St. Nicholas Cathedral in Seattle, he served, in English, the first Divine Liturgy for his new missionary parish.

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Orthodoxy in the Contemporary World. A Voice of Conscience in the Greek Archdiocese. (1968) (en.)